Vulnerable homeless people have been moved out of hotels in Cornwall to make way for police and government officials attending this week’s G7 summit, a local charity claims.
Disc Newquay has said that many people who have been living in hotel rooms under rolling short-term contracts during the pandemic had been told to leave, before the summit of the world’s seven largest advanced economies at a luxury hotel in Carbis Bay.
“Most of the hotel accommodation from Bodmin down has been block-booked for the G7,” said Monique Collins, the charity’s manager. “We have people in hotels in Camborne, Redruth, Truro, St Austell and Newquay – and they have all been moved out.”
Collins said the hundreds of summit bookings had added to pressures on emergency homeless accommodation in the county, leaving many people with even fewer options. However, Cornwall county council blamed the tourist season for shortages of temporary accommodation.
The police have booked more than 4,000 rooms at almost 200 venues across Devon and Cornwall. The Cabinet Office, which has also has made hundreds of room bookings, said that it had booked only commercially available rooms.
About 130 homeless people had been moved from hotels to make way for paying guests, according to Disc. Seven had to leave Sandy Lodge Hotel, Newquay, on 24 May to accommodate some of the 5,000 police officers who have been drafted in from outside Cornwall. Some were moved into other hotels only to be moved again.
Diane Perry, 56, had to leave Sandy Lodge for another hotel in Newquay. But she was moved again on 28 May and has been sleeping in her car – crammed with her belongings – ever since. “It’s screwed my mind up a bit,” she said. “It’s upsetting – I’ve got to live in my bloody car.”
Perry, who has been provided with cooking and washing facilities by Disc, who grew up in Cornwall said she has been told she might have to move out of the county. “The council don’t seem to care about me,” she said. “They said I might have to go out of the county. But I’m not going – I’m Cornish.”
Collins said that Perry’s mental state had deteriorated since she lost her room: “It is inhumane that she has to live in a car – it is just not right. But she is one of many who have been evicted because of the G7.”
Another homeless woman, who has schizophrenia, was left at the side of the road with her belongings in black bin liners, after being asked to leave from Sandy Lodge. Her mother, Claire, who did not want her full name used, said that she was eventually placed in an unsuitable surf hostel, with shared washing facilities, in the town.
“She normally just sits in her own space very quietly. But she is now on the high street in the middle of the summer season. The hostel is full of drunk surf dudes and holidaymakers. She is terrified – she thinks people are coming to get her,” she said. “They have not even put in her a safe place. She has been treated abysmally.”
She blames the G7 for her daughter’s predicament: “What gives them the right to force vulnerable adults out of their accommodation?”
Peter Butterly, the owner of Sandy Lodge, said G7 organisers had reserved all 79 rooms in the hotel last year prior to the council booking the rooms. “When we took the booking from the council, we said we could accommodate them [the homeless] until 24 May,” he said. “We understand it is all police.”
Nine out of 10 homeless people staying in a hotel in St Austell are understood to have been moved out by the council before the summit. Six homeless people are also understood to have been moved by the council out of the hotel in Camborne.
Cornwall council said in a statement that the demand for accommodation was not the result of the G7 summit. “It is a seasonal issue which has been exacerbated by the exceptional number of people we are supporting due to the pandemic. We continue to support those affected and the vast majority were offered alternative accommodation straight away.” It added that some of the homeless people affected chose not to take up the offer of available alternatives.
The council said it was unable to secure long-term bookings because emergency accommodation is uncertain and temporary. “Competition from the holiday market at this time of year means there is very limited availability to meet the needs of homeless households,” it stated, adding that it had investing £40m in homeless accommodation and has acquired more than 100 properties so far.
The police and Cabinet Office were approached for comment.